US trade gap shrinks to 10-year low

WASHINGTON: The US trade deficit narrowed sharply in May to its lowest level in a decade, led by a plunge in imported oil, government data showed Friday.

The deficit fell nearly 10 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted 26.0 billion dollars, the lowest level since July 1999, the Commerce Department said.

Most analyst expected the gap would widen to 30 billion dollars amid the global recession that has battered international trade. The May deficit was 57.1 percent lower than a year ago, while trade volume grew only 0.4 percent.

The Commerce Department lowered the April deficit to 28.8 billion dollars from 29.2 billion dollars.

The reduction in the trade gap resulted from a slight decline in imports and a stronger increase in exports as the weak dollar made US goods and services more affordable.

With the world's biggest economy reeling from a prolonged recession, imports fell for the 10th consecutive month, by 0.6 percent, to 149.3 billion dollars, their lowest level since July 2004.

Exports, which had fallen for the two preceding months, leapt 1.6 percent, their strongest gain since July 2008, to 123.3 billion dollars.

In a sign of continued weak US domestic demand, the goods deficit fell 6.5 percent to 37.330 billion dollars.

The services surplus rose for the third month running, by 2.1 percent to 11.368 billion dollars.

A steep drop in oil imports accounted for half the decline in the May trade gap. Oil imports fell 11 percent in May. Excluding oil, the trade gap closed 4.7 percent.